Tuesday, July 02 2019

Transform the pool into a stage and your students into dancers with an innovative interval format that challenges stamina and strength using work and recovery exercises similar to what can be found in the Allegro section of a ballet class.  Royal Academy of Dance certified ballet teacher and AEA Training Specialist, Ashley Bishop, shares an authentic ballet inspired workout in her video & handout - Aqua Allegro.  

Fitmotivation video subscribers will love the simplicity of transforming traditional aquatic fitness exercises into ‘ballet cousins’ in an easy-to-follow interval format.  If interval formats are not your thing, Ashley also demonstrates how the moves can be sequenced into choreographed combinations.    AEA certified instructors looking to enhance their education have the opportunity to earn 2.0 CECs with the accompanying extended education handout and online CEC quiz. 

Ballet influenced and Barre themed classes are extremely popular in studios these days.  Barre/Pilates classes have also transitioned into the pool thanks to the convenience of using the pool wall or a noodle for a point of stability.  Barre training refers to a specific portion of a traditional ballet class.  According to Ashley, a typical ballet class, whether you take class in London, Russia, or the USA, consists of series of class segments as described below: 

Barre:  A series of exercises are performed at the barre to get the body ready for the work that will take place in the duration of the class.  The stability of the barre to support and assist the dancer allows them to effectively warm up and prepare the body for the complicated steps that happen in the center.

Centre:  Still getting the body ready and warm for the more challenging steps, exercises like the Port de Bras (movement of the arms) Centre Practice & Turns, and Adage (which means drawn out and lengthened) are typically danced next.

Allegro:  As defined, Allegro means “fast & lively”.  Typically, one would dance some Petit Allegro Exercises (meaning small jumps) like Sautés, Changements and Soubresauts in various combinations (to name a few).  Next can be called the Medium Allegro or simply Allegro, which would consist of slightly larger movements, including Glissades, Sissones, and Assemblés.  Finally, would be the Grande Allegro, typically taking place from the corner of the room and travelling across the studio by dancing larger jumps and leaps including Saut de Chat, Grande Jetés, and Fouette Sautés.   

Reverence:  Slow gentle movements to lower the heart rate and thank the accompanist and the teacher for the class.

Rotation Rotation Rotation!
A large part of what makes Classical Ballet different from other forms of dance genres is the extensive use of external rotation of the legs.  As Ashley describes in the Aqua Allegro Extended Education CEC Handout, the pool is an ideal environment to practice moves with external rotation.  The water assists and supports movement and provides balanced resistance unlike in terra firma.   Performing movements with external rotation at the hip targets under-utilized muscles and takes a load of the hip flexors, which get overused with traditional exercises in the sagittal plane.   Rotational movement of the limbs improve core strength in abdomen and low back, while developing stabilizing muscles of the shoulder and hip areas.    However, rotation at the hip may not be for everyone.  Participants with tight muscles and joint mobility issues should be encouraged to modify exercises with toes pointing forward, thus eliminating the rotation at the joint.  Ashley demonstrates the ease of regressing the challenging externally rotated ballet moves to more traditional aquatic fitness exercises in the warm-up of the video. 

Aqua Allegro:  Video at a Glance

 Segment 1 - Warm-up
Aquatic base moves are paired up with their “ballet cousins” in this segment.  As described above, doing so allows participants to experience progressions and regressions of the movements in the very beginning of class.

Segment 2 – Petite Allegro
This segment features three different ballet moves – smaller jumps - performed for 45 seconds each, followed by 15 seconds of recovery.  The segment concludes with 1-minute of Adage, which in this case is
a burnout move where the lower body is stationary and the arms do all the work.
Segment 3 – Medium Allegro
The movement/jumps become slightly larger in this segment, concluding with another 60 seconds of an Adage featuring ballet arm movements. 
Segment 4 – Grand Allegro
Get ready to move as the movements become larger and travel is incorporated.   Unleash shock and awe in your class with some serious ballet leaps. 

Segment 5 – Cardio Combo
The final performance!  Ashley adds 4 of the moves together in a choreographed combination.

The video workout lasts just 25 minutes, which might be a good way to introduce ballet training if your students are unused to it.  Even better, consider introducing as a 5-10 minute segment and then build up from there based on your student’s interest and performance.  If all goes well and you want to expand out to a full 55-minure class, simply perform each of the exercises three times instead of one, as shown in the handout. Another option is to take these moves and use them to create choreography combos, as demonstrated in the last segment of the video.  Whether you replicate the notes as is or you create ballet inspired Tabata rounds, creative choreography, or blend it into your dynamic warm-up and cool down sequences, Ashley says that the most important thing is to have fun and revel in bringing a taste of ballet to the pool for everyone’s inner dancer. 

Fitmotivation would like to extend a big bouquet of flowers and thanks to Ashley for sharing her passion and knowledge of ballet with video subscribers.  I predict that Aqua Allegro will be a hit due to its novelty and easy adaptation to the water.  Check out Ashley’s other video, Cardio Combos.   If you are interested in bringing Ashley’s CEC workshops (AEA, AFAA & ACE) to your facility, including Aqua Allegro and Cardio Combos, please contact her through her website – BagelFit.   Additionally, Ashley and I will both be teaching at the AEA Specialty Event in Palm Desert, CA – December 1-3, 2017.   Hope to see you there!

Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.